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Thursday, March 16, 2006 

Toughest Book Ever Read

The other day Chris Tilling posted an interesting blog which posed a question for his readers as to what was the most boring theological books that they had ever read. So I thought I would pose a similar question. What's the toughest biblical studies, theological, or philosophical book that you guys have either read completely or at least tried to read?

Concerning myself, it is without a doubt Alfred North Whitehead's Process and Reality. I made the mistake of doing a philosophy paper on Whitehead's process philosophy and Cobb's process theology some years ago. So naturally I had to try and wade through Whitehead's so called magnum opus. To begin with, one of the chief problems with that book is its rough textual history. Apparently, according to the blurb on the back of the book, the "original edition was riddled with typographical errors, missing phrases, incorrect references, and hundreds of discrepancies between the English and American editions....it was often said that we had a better text of Plato's Republic than Whitehead's Process and Reality." Though a corrected edition was undertaken by two of his students, there are obvious lingering effects related to the probelms with that original edition

The second problem with this book is that though Whitehead was attempting to formulate a systematic philosophy of the world, he does so rather unsystematically. This is due in part to the book mostly being a publishing of his Gifford lectures. But it appears that Whitehead didn't undertake to set out these lectures in a coherent pattern thus, even in Whitehead's own words (p xi), causing many of the sections to simply be "unintelligible." Furthermore, this created many inconsistencies and ambiguities in the book. On top of this Whitehead tended to create his own words for his philosophical system such as 'prehension.'

Even many of Whitehead's students had trouble comprehending the book. One of these was Donald W. Sherburne who published a severely edited form (with diagrams!) of Process and Reality so as to lay out systematically what Whitehead was trying to get at. Needless to say, I used this version against Whitehead's own many times. Here is just a small sample from the unedited edition of Whitehead's book:

"If we prefer the phraseology, we can say that God and the actual world jointly constitute the character of the creativity for the initial phase of the novel concrescence. The subject, thus constituted, is the autonomous master of its own concrescence into subject-superject." (p 245)

Suffice it to say, that was an interesting paper I did. My professor didn't even understand it (often writing in the margins simply 'what?') and when I look back at that paper I'm not even sure that I understand it.

Great post!
Most difficult? Hmm. I'd have to say my old biblical Aramaic grammar again! Though some of my work on the modern continental philosophers was a bit of a struggle - until you knew how to 'translate' some of the more technical vocab. Some of von rad ain't too easy, nor Jüngel. Though perhaps the most difficult of all, come to think of it, and one that has absorbed much of my time even though it's so short: Paul's letter to the Galatins!

Enjoying the posts, Señor Petros.

Yes, I am reading. Everything is seeming pretty well thought out so far, so keep it up. I also will be quoting Mr. Myers in my blog site; I feel it encompasses more than one view of the resurrection into a single positive outlook, one that should be realized by the great "Left Behind"-type rapture that so many Christians are led to believe.
It's so easy for the world to turn, and pardon me if somehow I hit some kind of nerve with anyone who reads this, to the "Grandma died and is gone to heaven, a much better place" ideal that is rampant in the media. And what's worse, it's even more rampant in the common church discipline, rather than the common resurrection that scripture actually addresses more than once.

I know this comment doesn't really belong with THIS post, but I figured this would be the only one you'd think to check.

Lastly, though you may have already addressed it somewhere in your site, and I apologize if I missed it somewhere in a past post, I think it would be beneficial for discussion to any and all who read this site if you would let us all know your exact views on the topic on which I just touched: the belief in this wondrous "white light" that is going to beam down and lift us into heaven like a alien flying saucer when our bodies on this world stop breathing. I've talked to you a few times about all this, but again I think it would be a beneficial short post for you to create. Give us all your thoughts on where you see current "heresy," if it need be called such, about how exactly the passages concerning the PROCESS of resurrection should be interpreted. (Yes, I'm even asking you to address Corinthians. I know the risks of asking Christopher Petersen to do such--a reply 19 pages long--but I'm ready to read.) I'd expect a lot of emphasis on the symbolism of Jesus' resurrection foretelling how we, too, will be granted a new life in much the same way he was, except on this earth, as scripture actually writes, instead of in this cloudy white emptiness where we will find all our dead pets and Jimi Hendrix playing air hockey all day long in pure hippie bliss.

Have fun reading all that at Cingular. Sell some phones! Fix mine! Take care, man. Gimme a call soon.

Albert Einstein commented that he couldn't understand much, if anything, of what Whitehead wrote. Hmmm. It may be an unpopular opinion, but I think that some of the philosophers who are hardest to understand were to a large degree,poor writers.

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